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Photo of Ward and Msa in the Congo 1888. Ward (right) and Msa (left) in the Congo 1888. Photograph published in A Valiant Gentleman by Sarita Ward, 1927

Born in London in 1863, Herbert Ward left home at the age of 15 and began his world travels first to New Zealand and Australia, later to Borneo.  In 1884 at the age of  21 he set out for the Congo.

Between 1884 and 1888 Ward supported himself by working for various trading companies managing the transport of goods and supplies to and from European posts along the length of the Congo River. In 1888 he joined Henry Morton Stanley's Emin Pasha Relief Expedition serving the expedition in a similar capacity.

Following his return from Africa in 1889, Ward began a career as a writer and a popular lecturer about his Congo experiences. His lecture tours took him around the British Isles and to the United States. Upon his return from America he turned his attention to the fine arts.

Herbert Ward - Artist and Sculptor

In 1893 Ward began formal studies in painting and sculpture in London and in Paris. In 1902 Ward moved permanently to Paris. He found that Paris provided him with an easier access to African and Caribbean models for his sculptures; the French had excellent foundries for bronze casting; and he enjoyed a greater acceptance of his Congolese subjects by the French art academy and the public.

Ward's sculptural style fit broadly within the British “New Sculpture Movement”. This group of British sculptors rejected the rigid neoclassicism of the previous generations and embraced a greater naturalism in their depiction of the human figure. They often depicted bodies in motion and the emotional states of their subjects.

Herbert Ward in his Paris studio circa 1911 working on the clay model of the Firemaker. Herbert Ward in his Paris studio c. 1911 working on the clay model of the Firemaker.
Herbert Ward. Defiance, 1909.Herbert Ward. Defiance, 1909. Ward's statue of a Congolese warrior exhibits a heightened naturalism in the handling of the figure, a sense of tension and anticipation in the figure's stance, and an expression of focused determination.

Ward used photographs and sketches, as well as objects from his Congo collection, as resources and inspiration for Congo vignettes. During his years in the Congo, Ward had taken photographs and filled sketchbooks with drawings of landscapes, people, and objects that he collected.

His careful attention to the details of hairstyles, facial and body scarification, ornament, and clothing and his references to Congo objects from his collection suggest a certain degree of ethnographic truth. However, Ward always insisted that his works were first and foremost art not scientific illustrations. He stated that his intention when creating his sculptures was to convey “the spirit of Africa in the broad sense.”

A sketch by Ward of Yambuya camp, 1888.  National Anthropological Archives, NMNH.Herbert Ward, sketch of Yambuya camp, 1888. National Anthropological Archives, NMNH.
Sketch of a bowl Ward bought in February 1888.  National Anthropological Archives, NMNH.Sketch of a bowl Ward bought in February 1888. National Anthropological Archives, NMNH.

A portrait by ward titled “Makaiya Mvua”, 1884.  National Anthropological Archives, NMNH. Herbert Ward, portrait “Makaiya Mvua”, 1884. National Anthropological Archives, NMNH.
Bronze scuplture of a crouching figure titled, The Chief of the Tribe, 1908. Herbert Ward, The Chief of the Tribe, bronze, 1908.

Ward's singular focus on Congolese subjects found a ready audience in France where a number of French sculptors regularly depicted African and Asian subjects in their works. His work fit broadly into the category of ethnographic sculptures, popular from the mid-19th century onward.

Ward was clearly a man of his time and his 1902 bronze, Sleeping Africa, seems to support the then popular theory that the development of African cultures had been physically and culturally retarded. This theory granted positional superiority to Western culture and it served as a moral justification for the European colonization of the African continent. The allegorical figure of Africa is depicted asleep on the map of the continent. The implication here is that colonialism will awaken the continent to his true potential.

A decade later, however, Ward had begun to question the excesses of the colonial experiment in the Congo which were then coming to light in the press. In his last sculpture, Distress or The Tragedy of the Congo, he represented the male figure in the classical posture of mourning.

Bronze statue title 'Sleeping Africa', 1902.Herbert Ward, Sleeping Africa, bronze, 1902.
Bronze statue titled  'Distress or The Tragedy of the Congo', 1913. Herbert Ward, Distress or The Tragedy of the Congo, bronze, 1913.

Ward was a member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors. The regular acceptance of his works in exhibitions in Great Britain and France where he was awarded medals and the acquisition of his sculptures by art museums in Great Britain, France and South Africa attest to the generally high regard that his work enjoyed during his lifetime.

Ward's Studio Museum in Paris: the Congo Collection on Display

Around 1906 Ward installed his Congo collection on the upper floor of his Paris studio. Ward's invention of the Congo in this display was a tour de force.

By 1906 his Congo collection numbered in the thousands. Although he had collected a large number of objects while working in the Congo, he continued to add to this collection while he lived in Europe. His collection included numbers of weapons, textiles, carved figures, musical instruments, and personal ornaments.

In his museum Ward carefully and painstakingly designed the installation of his collection to maximize its overall aesthetic effect and to serve as a foil for his bronze sculptures of Congo vignettes.

Photograph of the installation of Herbert Ward's collection in Paris (c. 1911)Photograph of the installation of Herbert Ward's collection in Paris, c. 1911.
An axe of the Songye people made of a heavy iron blade with five intricately worked iron rods and a wooden handle sheathed in copper.Axe. Songye people. Heavy iron blade with five intricately worked iron rods. Wooden handle sheathed in copper. Department of Anthropology, NMNH, Cat. #E322758

A finely woven Raffiacloth decorated with tie dye designs. Raffia textile. Tie dye designs were added to this finely woven cloth. Department of Anthropology, NMNH, Cat. #E323681
A harp of the Azande people consisting of a wooden sound box with an animal skin stretched across it, and a curved wooden neck attached to the sound box to which strings and five tuning pegs are afixed.Harp, Azande people. The harp consists of a wooden sound box with an animal skin stretched across it, a curved wooden neck attached to the sound box to which the strings are fixed with five tuning pegs. An anthropomorphic head crowns the top of the neck. Department of Anthropology, NMNH, Cat. # 323637.

A lukasa (memory board) of the Luba people made from carved wood. Lukasa (memory board), Luba people, carved wood. In Luba culture the carved memory boards encode royal histories, king lists, and important events. Department of Anthropology, NMNH, Cat. # 323440.
A brass anklet of the Soko people.  Weighing nearly 13 lbs, it was worn by women. Brass Anklet. Soko people. The anklet which weighs nearly 13 lbs was worn by women. Department of Anthropology, NMNH, Cat. # 323655.

Ward's Collection comes to the Smithsonian

During World War I Ward served as a Lieutenant in No. 3 Convoy of the British Ambulance Committee where he distinguished himself. His exertions weakened his health and he died in 1919. In 1921, his widow, Sarita Ward, donated his collection along with his bronze sculptures depicting vignettes of Congo life to the Smithsonian. The curators designed the exhibition in Washington to capture some of the drama that Ward had achieved in his Paris display. They hung curtains over the windows to recreate the somber atmosphere of Ward's installation, which they described as evocative of the “jungle.” They mounted antelope and elephant trophy heads on the walls, surrounded by African weapons arranged in decorative patterns. Even so, the museum's installations were noticeably more restrained than the originals in Paris.

But, the curators also asserted the museum's scientific voice into the display. The Congo objects and the zoological specimens were organized in cases by type or function in line with the anthropological thinking of the day

The cases were displayed around the perimeter of the gallery and the displays included educational labels. The bronzes, rather than being fully integrated with the African objects as they had been in Paris, were all positioned in the central open space within the gallery. This exhibition, with minor revisions, remained on view until 1961.

Photograph of the Ward exhibition (c. 1922)  Smithsonian's National Museum (now the National Museum of Natural History). Photograph of the Ward exhibition (c. 1922), Smithsonian's National Museum (now the National Museum of Natural History).
Case with carved figures. Ward exhibition (c. 1922) Case with carved figures. Ward exhibition (c. 1922), Smithsonian's National Museum (now the National Museum of Natural History). Two of Ward's bronze studies, Mask of the Negro Man and Mask of the Negro Woman, were installed in this case alongside Congolese figures and masks.

Search the Smithsonian Ward Collect Online >>

Browse the collections records of objects from the Ward Collection at the Smithsonian. The Ward African Collection was donated to the Smithsonian in 1921 by Ward's widow, Sarita Ward.

The Herbert Ward collection can be viewed at the Museum Support Center in Suitland, Maryland. Appointments are available Monday through Friday, 9 am to 4:30 pm, excluding federal holidays. To request an appointment, please visit the following Anthropology Department webpage: http://anthropology.si.edu/cm/visitor_policy.htm

Catalogue of the Herbert Ward Bronzes 1900-1913

The catalogue of the sculptures is arranged chronologically.

Bronze bust titled 'Aruimi Type'
Catalogue #: E323712
Title: Aruimi Type
Description: Exhibited at the Royal Academy, London and at the Salon Société des Artistes Français, Paris in 1900. Awarded Honorable Mention.
Creation Yr: 1900
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: with base H. 56 cm x W. 25 cm x D. 24 cm
Field: Ethnology
Accession Yr: 1921
Bronze Bust titled 'A Bakongo Girl'
Catalogue #: E323713
Title: A Bakongo Girl
Description: Exhibited at the Salon Société des Artistes Français, Paris in 1901.
Creation Yr: 1901
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: with base H. 56 cm x W. 27 cm x D. 23 cm
Field: Ethnology
Accession Yr: 1921

Bronze work titled Mask of a Negro Girl
Catalogue #: E323721
Title: A Bakongo Girl
Description: Exhibited at the Salon Société des Artistes Français, Paris in 1901.
Creation Yr: 1901
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: H. 28 cm x W. 15 cm x D. 13 cm
Field: Ethnology
Accession Yr: 1921
Bronze work titled 'Mask of a Negro Man'
Catalogue #: E323722
Title: Mask of a Negro Man
Description: Study for the Aruimi Type.
Creation Yr: 1901
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: without base H. 33 cm x W. 22 cm x D. 15 cm
Field: Ethnology
Accession Yr: 1921

Bronze scuplture titled 'The Charm Doctor or Le Sorcier'
Catalogue #: E323732
Title: The Charm Doctor or Le Sorcier
Description: Exhibited at the Salon Société des Artistes Français, Paris in 1902.
Creation Yr: 1902
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: without base H. 202 cm x W. 60 cm x D. 71 cm
Field: Ethnology
Accession Yr: 1921
Bronze scupture titled 'Sleeping Africa'
Catalogue #: E323718
Title: Sleeping Africa
Description: Allegory for Africa at the dawn of European colonialism
Creation Yr: 1902
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: without base H. 108 cm x W. 115 cm x D. 76 cm
Field: Ethnology
Accession Yr: 1921

Bronze statute titled 'The Fugitives'
Catalogue #: E323733
Title: The Fugitives
Description: Mother and children fleeing from Arab slave traders in the Congo Exhibited at the Salon Société des Artistes Français, Paris in 1903.
Creation Yr: 1903
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: without base H. 173 cm x W. 81 cm x D. 97 cm
Field: Ethnology
Accession Yr: 1921
Bronze statute titled 'A Congo Boy'
Catalogue #: E323714
Title: A Congo Boy
Description: Study for the figure of the boy in the sculpture The Fugitives.
Creation Yr: 1903
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: with base H. 47 cm x W. 31 cm x D. 19 cm
Field: Ethnology
Accession Yr: 1921

Bronze sculpture titled 'The Forest Lovers or Les Bantu'
Catalogue #: E323729
Title: The Forest Lovers or Les Bantu
Description: Exhibited in plaster at Salon Société des Artistes Français, Paris in 1904 and in bronze at Salon Société des Artistes Français, Paris in 1905.
Creation Yr: 1904/1905
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: without base H. 208 cm x W. 92 cm x D. 83 cm
Field: Ethnology
Accession Yr: 1921
Bronze scupture titled 'The Wood Carrier'
Catalogue #: E323717
Title: The Wood Carrier
Description: The model in Paris for this sculpture was a Senegalese girl
Creation Yr: 1905
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: without base H. 74 cm x W. 41 cm x D. 37 cm
Field: Ethnology
Accession Yr: 1921

Bronze sculpture titled 'The Idol Maker'
Catalogue #: E323735
Title: The Idol Maker
Description: Exhibited in plaster at Salon Société des Artistes Français, Paris in 1906 and in bronze at Salon Société des Artistes Français, Paris in 1907.
Creation Yr: 1906/1907
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: without base H.169 cm x W. 38 cm x D. 117 cm
Field: Ethnology
Accession Yr: 1921
Bronze sculpture titled 'The Crouching Woman'
Catalogue #: E323715
Title: The Crouching Woman
Description:
Creation Yr: 1906
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: without base H.45 cm x W 31 cm x D 25 cm
Field: Ethnology
Accession Yr: 1921

Fragment: A study for the Crouching Woman
Catalogue #:
Title: Fragment: A study for the Crouching Woman
Description: .
Creation Yr: 1906
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions:
Field: without base H.38 cm x W. 31 cm x D. 25 cm
Accession Yr: 1921
Bronze sculpture titled 'The Tribal Chief'
Catalogue #:
Title: The Tribal Chief
Description: Exhibited at the Salon Société des Artistes Français, Paris in 1908. Awarded Gold Medal (3rd)
Creation Yr: 1908
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: without base H.175 cm x W. 112 cm x D. 147 cm
Field: Ethnology
Accession Yr: 1921

Bronze statute titled 'Defiance'
Catalogue #: E323736
Title: Defiance
Description: Exhibited at the Salon Société des Artistes Français, Paris in 1909.
Creation Yr: 1909
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: without base H. 212 cm x W. 85 cm x D. 113 cm
Field: Ethnology
Accession Yr: 1921
Bronze statute titled 'A Congo Artist'
Catalogue #: E323731
Title: A Congo Artist
Description: Exhibited at the Salon Société des Artistes Français, Paris in 1910. Awarded Gold Medal (2nd)
Creation Yr: 1910
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: without base H. 89 cm x W. 132 cm x D. 150 cm
Field: Ethnology
Accession Yr: 1921

Bronze statute titled 'The Fire Maker'
Catalogue #: E323730
Title: The Fire Maker
Description: Exhibited at the Salon Société des Artistes Français, Paris in 1911.
Creation Yr: 1911
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: without base H. 99 cm x W. 120 cm x D. 93 cm
Field: Ethnology
Accession Yr: 1921
Bronze statute titled 'Distress or The Tragedy of the Congo'
Catalogue #: E323734
Title: Distress or The Tragedy of the Congo
Description: Exhibited in plaster at the Salon Société des Artistes Français, Paris in 1912 and in bronze at the Salon Société des Artistes Français, Paris in 1913.
Creation Yr: 1912/13
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: without base H. 188 cm x W. 58 cm x D. 61 cm
Field: Ethnology
Accession Yr: 1921

Bronze statute titled 'Head of a Gorilla'
Catalogue #: E323720
Title: Head of a Gorilla
Description:
Creation Yr: 1912
Type: Sculpture
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: with base H. 46 cm x W. 51 cm x D. 47 cm
Field: Ethnology
Accession Yr: 1921

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